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Episode Overview: The modern digital landscape provides robust tools and abundant resources that any business can use to easily create their own content, but it takes an efficiently structured content team to truly achieve your business’ content marketing goals. Join Ben as he continues his Content Optimization Month discussion with Content Marketing Institute’s Robert Rose as he explains the pros and cons of different content marketing team organizational structures and the best way to create and structure your own powerhouse content marketing team.
- “Content is everybody’s job and nobody’s strategy in many businesses.” – Robert Rose
- Content as a strategic function in a business is most successful when it improves the customer experience and provides better methods to measure metrics
- The preferred organizational structure of a content marketing team is an integrated model where you have a core team spearheading specific elements of content creation, such as a blog publication cycle, and also provides oversight, creating content production guidelines for people in the rest of the company who contribute content to the overall business’ content marketing strategy.
GUESTS & RESOURCES:
Ben: Welcome back to Content Optimization Month on the Voices of Search Podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro and today we’re going to continue our month long deep dive into the words behind the numbers to discuss what SEOs need to know about content optimization.
Ben: Joining us again today is Robert Rose, who according to his LinkedIn profiles, both the chief strategist and chief troublemaker at the Content Marketing Institute, which is a resource that helps marketers maximize their content marketing efforts by teaching them how to attract and retain customers through compelling multichannel storytelling.
Ben: Yesterday, Robert and I talked a little bit about the changing landscape and where content fits into a marketer’s arsenal. And today we’re going to talk about the ways that effective content marketing teams are being structured. But before we hear from Robert, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics.
Ben: We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses, monitor their online presence, and make data driven decisions. To support you our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a free trial of the Searchmetrics suite. That’s right, you can now start a trial of both the Searchmetrics SEO and Content Experience platforms without paying a dime. To start your free trial, head over to searchmetrics.com/freetrial.
Ben: Okay. Here’s the rest of my conversation with Robert Rose, chief troublemaker at the Content Marketing Institute. Robert, welcome back to the Voices of Search Podcast.
Robert: Well, here we are again. I am just digging this.
Ben: It’s great to have you back here. We decided yesterday to split our conversation up into two parts. We talked yesterday a little bit about how the landscape of content marketing is changing, and my big takeaway is content itself is no more or less valuable than it used to be. But content marketing is becoming a more important part of a marketer’s arsenal in the sense that advertising is no longer as effective as it used to be. There’s so many impressions that the end consumer is starting to turn a blind eye to being advertised towards and that’s why content is becoming more of an important utility for marketers. The problem that brands are running into is structuring a content marketing team so it is effective at scale. Talk to me about some of the ways that teams are being structured. What’s the legacy way of structuring a content marketing team, and what’s a new more effective way to build a content marketing program?
Robert: So, and by the way, I think you encapsulated that very, very well. It is the function that is valuable in the business and it’s treating it as such. And you could even argue that it’s not even just looking at content marketing. It’s actually content full stop, right? Content as a strategic function in the business is something that we’re seeing when done well is enabling the success of the business not only for more efficient content creation measurements, costs, et cetera, but also of course more effective customer experiences that sort of everybody wants to focus on.
Robert: The core of that is that the way that content is usually created in the business these days as digital, has sort of erupted and turned into so many channels and so many different audiences in so many different ways of creating it, is as I’ve said before, content is everybody’s job and nobody’s strategy in many businesses. Usually what happens is somebody goes and says, “Okay, we should create better content. We should create editorial or thought leadership or some sort of content marketing thing.” They read a book, they go to a conference, they hear about it online, they read it, they hear a podcast, whatever it is. The business is inspired in some way, and usually what happens is one or two or three people get assigned this new duty.
Robert: And with the assignment of this new duty called content marketing or editorial or thought leadership comes the responsibility of creating all these assets. And on the last show we talked about sort of the value or not of those individual assets, and those people become kind of an on demand vending machine of content marketing assets for the rest of the business. Demand generation, PR, brand, sales enablement, whatever the sort of siloed marketing and sales and content hungry groups are. These groups end up producing these assets for it. And it doesn’t end up scaling very well. And it also doesn’t end up being able to be measured very well because simply all we’re doing is measuring the assets themselves. We’re measuring the individual components that are created rather than how they’re contributing to building an overall business value by building an audience. Holding that attention, as we talked about.
Robert: The key, the shift is actually creating an operating model, a business operating model for content to exist in the business. And we can talk about what those are, but the extensible idea here is that just like you create accounting or legal or marketing or sales or PR, there are functional standards and ways of operating within those functions in the business. The same needs to be applied to content. As I say, content is as important, if not more important, to the business as legal, accounting, et cetera. Nobody allows to create my own Excel spreadsheet for how I want to track my expenses or how I want to create a contract or how I want to procure a new piece of enterprise software. There are standards and guidelines and teams that I need to comply with. The same should be for content. We should have strategic approaches to the creation, management, production, promotion, syndication, and measurement of content as a strategic function. Building that as a core competency in the business is really where the value lies.
Ben: What I’m hearing is that there’s a transition between how content marketing teams have been run and how high performing content marketing teams are. Sounds like there’s some inspiration. The CMO talks to another CMO and gets asked, “What’s your content marketing strategy? Or what’s your content strategy?” They’re left with a blank stare on their face saying, “It’s everybody’s job.” And they get their hand slapped by their buddies. Head to a conference and all of a sudden you realize that you need a content team that oversees how content is being used broadly across your entire organization as opposed to siloed next to the SEO team.
Ben: So, in the same way that how your brand has a public facing voice through your PR team, any sort of written word that’s published by your company needs to be vetted from the content team. Whether it is for direct response, whether it’s for SEO, whether it’s a blog post, investor communication, you need to have this team that has a universal view of the content that is being published by your brand. It is not everyone’s responsibility. It should be more siloed in terms of responsibility. But that team that has responsibility for content needs an overview of the entire landscape within your organization.
Robert: Yeah. I mean, we typically see … by the way, we’re going to use the word team here, but this could easily be one person in a smaller business.
Ben: The content tsar.
Robert: Exactly right. A function, as I like to say. A function that is managed by one or multiple people, and it’s a focus-
Ben: The dictator of content.
Robert: The dictator of content. I mean, there’s all sorts of fun metaphors we could go down there. The impeachment of content. Yeah. And so we typically see there are three types of approaches to this. You have the fully, what we would call a centralized approach where you’ve got, as you’re talking about here, a content department that handles everything from the mechanics of content, including SEO, taxonomies, governance, structure, all of that sort of thing to the management of publications, to the creation of content, to the management and merchandising of other elements of communication that are getting put out. The department of content, if you will.
Robert: Then we have sort of the decentralized where everybody basically creates content for their own purposes. So in much the same way it happens today, you’ve got demand gen and PR and product and account services all creating content. But they’re doing so under a common sort of standardization playbook, guidelines, et cetera. More of a brand type of organization that creates the standards, but everything around the content itself is decentralized.
Robert: And then you’ve got what we prefer and recommend usually, which is something we just call an integrated model, which is kind of a hybrid between the two where you’ve got a team, a focused function of content that handles a very specific element of content. Maybe it’s just content marketing, the blog, the resource center, the website, whatever. Those publications that are built around creating audiences may be, and then that same team also creates content standards and guidelines for the rest of the business that yes, of course they’re going to be creating content too. They’re going to be creating content as well. And so operating under one operating guideline, but the team itself doesn’t handle the full creation of all the content. It handles some of the creation for some of the various channels that need to build audiences.
Ben: It’s interesting. So there’s three models here. There’s the DOC, the department of content who was the dictator ruler from on high of everything that is types for public consumption.
Robert: That’s right.
Ben: Right. There is your totally distributed model. Everybody is responsible for content. What have you done within the organization to help promote it? And it’s a free for all. And then there’s some sort of hybrid model, which is everybody has a clear understanding of the purpose of content and can be a creator, but there’s some sort of oversight amongst how it’s being published.
Robert: That’s right. And varying degrees of difficulty in integrating those things, making changes to those things. And all based on the usual suspects of corporate culture and budgets and team size and locations and regionality and all of those things are taken into account. And honestly in the work we do, this is what we help companies sort is how to organize that operation.
Ben: So how do you match the three options you have for your team structure for content to be effective and fit within your brand? What’s the guideline for matching up one of these structures with producing the optimal content output and syndication for your brand?
Robert: Well, it’s understanding first and foremost the operating model by which you want to create these customer centered experiences. And so in other words, the first step in looking at this is to say what is the portfolio at least today, if not looking out five years or whatever, but at least today. What are the portfolio of experiences that our customers are going to go through on their journey with our brand? And this is well worn trails for most marketers these days. Understanding our personas, understanding them and their journey as it’s mapped to our brand and the engagement with our products and services. Understanding where they get the value in and then creating a gap analysis to say, “Great, where are we short? Where are we not performing?” And those become the priorities of things that we need to build.
Robert: Once we understand, we say, “Okay, great.” This is what our current state of the world looks like. Now we can say, “What is the operating model for which we would best be able to connect all those experiences together?” And as you say, the answers are in the data. How do we connect all those experiences so that the data can actually start to tell us where the gaps would be in the future? And that’s something that most businesses today, I don’t care how big the business is. I mean, some of the brands out there in the world that you think would be amazing at this are actually quite horrible at this, which is actually how connecting these experiences so that we know when someone is first met, first engages, first becomes a lead, then becomes an opportunity, fills their shopping cart, becomes a customer, becomes an evangelistic customer and so on and so forth.
Robert: The idea behind that is certainly something every vendor in the world is out there evangelizing the 360-degree view of our audiences and customers, but so few businesses do it because they don’t understand the operating model of content and how to connect all those experiences together. So that first step is understanding what is our operating model to manage this portfolio of experiences. And then great, what that does is it tell us what governance model we should have. The distributed, decentralized, or the fully integrated. That’s the first step is really understanding where we are so that we understand where we need to go.
Ben: At the end of the day, it always comes down to what are the assets you have, whether it be your content assets, your people, your organization structure and who are you trying to reach. And so it’s not surprising to me that the answer to the question, what should the structure of your content marketing team be, it depends. It depends what you’re trying to accomplish. It depends who you’re trying to reach and it depends who is in your organization.
Ben: Robert, any last words on advice or resources that brands can look to for figuring out how they can re-engineer the structure of their content marketing team?
Robert: You just teed me up there. So certain-
Ben: It’s a softball.
Robert: Well, thank you, Benjamin.
Ben: Funny you should ask.
Robert: The Content Marketing Institute is obviously a great one. I would say the work we do at Content Advisory, which is contentadvisory.net, is almost solely focused on this idea of the organization and operation of content. So really going through any of the content we have there. You know there are white papers and there are resources there that sort of talk through this. And, quite frankly, looking at any of the talks that I’ve been giving lately on YouTube or on Content Marketing Institute, you’ll find tons of stuff on this.
Ben: Just listen to Robert. He’ll tell you the truth and he’ll point you in the right direction is the answer to the question. You can’t say it, but I can. The Content Marketing Institute is a great resource if you’re thinking about the structure of your content marketing team. And this really does have a deep impact on SEOs. A lot of the times you get a combined SEO and content marketing team, often they’re separate as well. But I think that the understanding that content and content marketing and syndications becoming more important, not just for organic search before your entire organization, is a realization that all marketers need to face. And if the SEOs listening to this podcast can help support that, it’s going to allow them to build better relationships and also craft the structure of the content marketing team to support their agendas as well.
Ben: So that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search Podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Robert Rose, Chief Content Strategist and troublemaker at the Content Marketing Institute.
Ben: We’d love to continue this conversation with you. So if you’re interested in contacting Robert, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can send him a tweet. His Twitter handle is Robert_Rose, or you can visit his company’s website, which is contentadvisory.net.
Ben: If you have general marketing questions or if you’d like to talk to me about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes, or you can send me a tweet @BenJShap. B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P.
Ben: And if you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to searchmetrics.com/freetrial for your test run of our SEO Suite and Content Experience platform.
Ben: And if you like this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning to continue our conversation with Robert Rose and talk about the ways that you should be evaluating your content marketing from an analytics perspective.
Ben: Okay, that’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.